AN ENGLISH major at Howard, a university that produces the most black doctorate recipients of any university, has created an online platform to “fill the gap in representation for young minorities in the print world” while raising money to grant them scholarships.
Alexa Lisitza, a junior at the historically black educational institution, says Caged Bird Magazine, named after acclaimed writer and poet Maya Angelou’s I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, says she wanted to create a “comfortable space” for the young black community to “connect and talk about their experiences”.
“I find that young Black and brown people often feel trapped in a world that is tired of them reiterating their problems without considering the fact that they might be repeating themselves because the problem is being discussed but never fixed,” Alexa told The Young Empire. “The magazine, as a writing platform, is meant to give those frustrated young people a place to read articles they can relate to, or write about things they have to say.”
Caged Bird Magazine, founded in November, is also raising money to grant scholarships to its content creators so they are able to gain valuable writing experience without having to worry about university fees.
“It is so incredibly important to give back to students,” she adds. “Many jobs will not hire someone who does not have prior work experience, and that is why we intern. But what happens to the young man or woman who is better than most people in their field of study, but does not have time for an internship because they come from a family who cannot afford their tuition, and so they work whenever they are not in class.
“They could be the best decision that company has ever made, but they are passed up for someone who was privileged with more free time. I wanted to give out scholarships to some of the writers as a way of supporting their dreams so they will have time to make these opportunities for themselves.”
She has already received the support of alumni from the different schools the writers hail, who have, in turn, donated money toward the scholarship fund, and have sent letters expressing their excitement.
Alexa says it’s crucial for young black people to see themselves not only “reflected in the media, but reflected positively”.
“If we do not see anyone like us in a certain field, we assume that that place is not for us, and that we will not have a voice there. Yes, you can put a minority in a workplace that is filled with white people, but how are they represented? Does the minority speak, or are they just a number to fill a diversity quota? What does the minority speak about? Are they given a couple of lines or do they run the show? We see inclusion of Black people in media as progress, and it definitely is, but how progressive can it be to have a minority just standing around rather than acting? Positive reflection demands action.”
Caged Bird Magazine offers to fill that gap by giving a voice – and platform – to “minorities who experience the world around them in different ways”.
“I think that people often forget that there is no one minority experience,” Alexa says. “We are individuals.”
“So people can connect to the writers who identify as Black nerds, Black power enthusiasts, Black women, Black men, or however they see themselves. The use this opportunity to produce content for the subcategories of Black people who are just like them.”
With the demands of Caged Bird, Alexa also juggles a job, internship and school.
“It is all because of my managing editor, Jazmyn Jackson, who keeps my head on straight, presents ideas that bring us higher, and helps with everything I didn’t even think to ask help for. I love that woman and she is the reason we are still running,” she reveals.
Her tips for anyone wanting to launch an online platform based on your experience?
“Know your audience, and know what you want to accomplish before starting. Go in with a plan, not just a dream. Know how you’re going to achieve and fight for it”
ALEXA’S FAVOURITE QUOTE:
“Being a Black women writer is not a shallow place but a rich place to write from. It doesn’t limit my imagination. It expands it.” – Toni Morrison, Howard alum goals.
For more information about Caged Bird Magazine, visit: http://www.cagedbirdmagazine.com
WORDS: Dionne Grant